William E. Lamie, Express Logic
On January 12, 2005, NASA, working with the engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Maryland, launched Deep Impact’s (DI) two-piece space probe with the intention of hitting Tempel 1—a comet 80 million miles away. Scientists hope to use the captured mission data to find clues about how to force comets, asteroids, and meteors off-course in the event that one of them had Earth on its trajectory. Earth impact by a large comet is believed to be capable of creating a crater several hundred kilometers wide while simultaneously triggering a firestorm that would engulf the entire world. To complete the $300 million project, JPL went to longtime hardware provider Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., (Boulder, CO), specifically tasking Ball with building an 820-pound craft approximately the size of an SUV. The project consisted of a Flyby craft and an Impactor craft, responsible for taking and transmitting the data back to earth. These imaging instruments were also required to aid in the autonomous navigation of the crafts as well.